Skip to main content

Full text of "The Cambridge Natural History"

See other formats


340                                 SIZE OF WHALES

muscular. Brain much expanded transversely and well con-
voluted. Testes abdominal Teats two, inguinal in position.
Placenta diffuse and non-deciduate.
The Whales and Dolphins,, which constitute this order, form an
assemblage which is easily characterised by reason of the fact
that their affinities to other groups of Mammalia are so doubtful
that they furnish matter rather for speculation than for authori-
tative statement. Some hold that they resemble in certain points
the "Ungulata; while others again see in them the culminating
term of a series which commences with such a form as the Otter,
and of which the Seals and Sea-lions are intermediate stages. A
third opinion is that the Whales have arisen from some low
mammalian stock, too primitive to be assigned to any existing
order of mammals. Palaeontology, as will be seen later, throws
no light whatever -upon their origin. This matter has already
been referred to (see p. 120) in considering the position of the
Cetaeea
The Whales include the most gigantic of all the orders of
vertebrated animals. ~No creature living or extinct is so large as
the Sibbald's .Rorqual, which attains to a length of some 85 feet,
or perhaps even rather more. On the other hand we have what
are by comparison minute forms. Apart from the possibly pro-
blematical Delphinus minutus, stated to be only 2 feet in length,
we have as a minimum 3 or 4 feet. The size of the Cetaeea
has been subjected to much exaggeration. The first duty of a
Whale, observed the late Sir William Flower, is to be large; and
Natural Historians, in the recent as well as in the remote past,
have not hesitated to put very round numbers upon the dimen-
sions of the larger members of the order. We may perhaps
pass over Pliny's " fish called balaena or whirlpool, which is so
long and broad as to take up more in length and breadth than
two acres of ground," and a number of analogous exaggerations,
which gradually dwindled down to the dimensions just stated of
the great HorojiaL M. Pouehet has made the ingenious sug-
gestion that the statements of the ancients may have been nearer
the truth than observations of to-day would have us believe;
he pointed out justly that in former times Whales were not so
relentlessly pursued as during the last century; the inference
beig itjbnt they may have lived to a greater age, and attained
a more colossal bulk. The more modem exaggerations in the